WASHINGTON -- To deter customers from buying groceries in other types of retail outlets, Supervalu, Minneapolis, will use "solution selling" to develop a meal-solution department in the front end of stores that will merchandise products according to similar categories.
"The supermarket of the future needs to bring all meal components together to address the needs of the customer of the future," said George Chirteau, vice president of merchandising for Supervalu.
"Instead of entering stores and seeing 5-pound bags of flour and liquid detergent, customers will see four departments featuring four options for dinner tonight -- Italian, a Grill Out, Mexican or Chinese," he added.
Chirteau revealed Supervalu's merchandising solution during the Category Masters conference here, Aug. 3 to 5, sponsored by ACNielsen, Stamford, Conn. His presentation focused on using category management as the key to implementing solution selling.
As customers enter the store, they will see the four departments that blanket the 65-foot-long front wall. According to Chirteau, each section will be 16 feet wide, and will include an 8-foot refrigerated case and 4 feet of shelving. Each department will include meal solutions that are both ready to eat and chilled, as well as raw ingredients to prepare home-cooked meals.
"Supermarkets can provide three types of meal solutions -- food to bring home for dinner tonight, food to be eaten later simply by heating it up in an oven or microwave, and finally food to be prepared at home from scratch," Chirteau explained. "The complete department will be less than 2,000 square feet and it will have all kinds of meal solutions," said Chirteau. "I believe this is the supermarket of the future and if we do not address this, it will be the convenience store operators that will provide this to consumers."
Chirteau did not give a specific time frame or number of stores that the departments would appear in. He also did not specify whether the prototype would be launched in corporate-owned Supervalu stores or in independent retailer locations.
Chirteau defined solution selling as simplifying the shopping experience by bundling and merchandising products, service and information to create a value for the consumer.
In addition to providing meal solutions, Chirteau explained, the departments will answer meal questions. The salad and dessert bars, as well as assorted beverages and paper goods, will also be in the front end of the store, allowing customers to pick up ingredients to complete an entire meal.
"The industry is already preparing for these types of displays," he explained. According to Chirteau, multi-temperature cases were displayed at this year's Food Marketing Institute's Supermarket Industry Convention in Chicago.
"The back end of the case is hot and the front end is chilled," he said. "This type of solution selling could take over the entire store."
Solution selling may not yet take over the entire store but Supervalu is headed in that direction through its recent launch of pet departments in 80 stores, marketing items such as pet toys, leashes, bones and accessories in addition to pet food.
"We need those departments in our stores; we need destination pet departments that will challenge any PetsMart or Petco," said Chirteau. "It took one year to develop this concept but we have the attitude that this department will help us take back the pet business."
Dinner and pet departments only seem to be the beginning of things to come in the area of solution selling for Supervalu. "I can think of at least 35 destination departments that solve consumer problems, including a birthday department, men's and women's grooming centers, dessert departments, dental care, even party supplies," he said.
Supervalu is not the only company launching solution departments. According to Chirteau, Kroger Co., Cincinnati, is testing breakfast centers. "Called 'The Cereal Bowl,' Kroger has brought everything together that you could possibly ever want for breakfast," he said. Kroger declined to comment on the breakfast-solution department.